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By Neville Choi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 6, 1998 - The Independent)---The Skate administration is not popular and most people would like to see it gone, according to a nationwide opinion poll on the performance of the Skate-Nali government.

The opinion poll, carried out by Mell Research and Marketing Consultants, was conducted during July, August and September this year with the aim of gauging peoples' opinions on the performance of the then current Skate-Nali government and whether the government should continue in office after the 18-month grace period is up.

According to the poll, 66.3 per cent (7,600) of the total urban sample of 12,000 feel that the Skate-Nali government has not been performing since it got into power and say that once the 18-month grace period is up, they should be replaced by a new government.

The Skate-Nali government was complimented by 2,600 (21.67 percent) of the people interviewed. They said the Skate-Nali government should continue in government after the grace period is up.

Fifteen percent (1,800) did not make any comment for various reasons.

Unlike the formal sector 56.125 per cent (4,490) of the 8,000 rural sample did not want to answer the question because most said they did not know enough about the Skate-Nali government.

Also included in the poll is who most people would prefer to be the next prime minister if there is a change of government at the end of February next year.

'Father of the nation' Sir Michael Somare was rated by 21.42 percent (2,918) as the most preferred leader to become prime minister.

"These people feel that when the country is going through tough times Sir Michael would be the only choice for PM to put the country on the right track. When he was prime minister many of these problems did not occur," the poll report said.

Second choice favored to become PM was Sir Julius Chan with 17.68 percent, followed by current opposition leader Bernard Narokobi who had the support of 15.95 percent.

Popular Choices for PM

Other choices for prime minister who scored below one per cent were Tommy Tomscoll, Anderson Agiru, Andrew Baing, Luther Wenge, Ian Ling-Stuckey, John Pundari, Francis Koimanrea, Stephen Pokawin and Peter Yama.

Michael Yake Mell, owner of Mell Research and Marketing, says it is not the first time that his company has conducted an opinion poll.

"My company is the only company in the country -- which introduced opinion polls in 1994 -- and since then we've been conducting polls on various issues affecting the majority of our people," he said.

Mr. Mell and his study teams had conducted an opinion poll before the elections last year which covered all of the 109 seats throughout the provinces.

The results of the polls compared to the actual election results were just over 80 percent correct.

Speaking on the recently completed opinion poll Mr. Mell said, "I consider this opinion poll a major one since 1994, assessing the performance of this current government taking into account many criticisms, comments that we have received from professional people, from the university and also from opinion poll companies in Australia, and also from the general public."

A sample of 20,000 people was interviewed in the poll and the study was conducted in all of the four regions of the country, with the provinces of Milne Bay, Western, Manus and New Ireland having missed out because of funding problems.

The 20,000 sample population was comprised of 70 percent (14,000) male and 30 percent (6,000) female.

Mr. Mell attributed the lower percentage in the number of women having been interviewed to many women being shy and refusing to be interviewed.

Of the 20,000 interviewed, 60 percent (12,000) were from the formal sector (both employed and unemployed in cities, towns or sub-towns) while the remaining 40 percent (8,000) were from the rural sector and made up of mainly public servants, subsistence farmers and ordinary villagers.

"It was decided that 60 percent of the sample population from the formal sector had to be processed separately from those opinions of the non formal rural sector.

"The 60 percent represent those who are knowledgeable of what is happening in PNG on a daily basis through the media while the 40 percent are basically subsistence farmers who are not consistent with the media," the poll report reads.

According to Mr. Mell, he had decided to send his teams out to personally interview people for their opinions, saying it was more effective and opinions were guaranteed rather than sending out questionnaires and receiving nothing back.

"The method of research used by Mell Research was to personally go to the people and ask them and provide their opinions in the workplace in the villages, in the provinces and districts. We chose to do that because it's more effective in PNG and it's a lot faster in terms of time.

"If we have questionnaires and we dish them out, some people will come back to you and some don't.

"The company felt that not only interviewing the respondent verbally was cheaper but also faster and permitted the interviewer to better understand the respondents reply," he said.

Most of the rural respondents were interviewed at rural bus stops in towns and in shopping centers while some were interviewed in their villages and sub districts.

The age groups of the respondents also differed from past polls Mr. Mell had conducted in that the range of the age group was 13 - 60 years old.

Mr. Mell said that the reason for bringing the minimum age for respondents down to 13 was so that high school students, whom he describes as being the future leaders of the country, would have the chance to voice their opinion.

The poll report also makes recommendations for more access to government information for the rural population, and for more opinion polls in the future.

Mr. Mell hopes to conduct a poll on the country's Consumer Price Index (CPI) as the prices of goods and services is one thing he feels the ordinary man on the street will have something to say about.

For additional reports from The Independent, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Independent (Papua New Guinea).

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